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How to Easily Edit your First Draft

Congratulations, you’ve written your first draft!! There’s no doubt about it, writing a complete manuscript is hard. So I’m here to celebrate with you… woo whoo!

If you’ve stumbled upon this post, you’re probably wondering what’s next? Let’s face it… editing a novel is a daunting task. You’re not alone if you feel overwhelmed and baffled by this next stage. As I embark on editing my fourth novel, I’m feeling the stirrings of dread. But fear not, I’m going to break things down into bite size tips to get you started.

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After completing your novel, set it aside. Yes, you heard me. Don’t immediately start editing. You’ll be too close to the story and characters to objectively see plot holes, weak characters or blundering scenes. So save your work and close down the files. I suggest a minimum of a month break, but longer is fine too. In the meantime start a new project, read books and maybe (just maybe) catch up on some housework… nah, I didn’t like the last idea either.

Grab your notebook and some fancy pens. Its time to take stock of your story. Read through the whole manuscript, let the story settle in your mind along with your ideas for change. Then repeat the process, but this time a little slower. Recount each chapter with a brief sentence or two.

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On a separate page, take stock of any red flags, structural changes, things that need cutting or rewriting. I personally also like a printed copy for this stage. I underline sentences that don’t flow, or sound repetitive and jot things in the margin. In the past I’ve made the mistake of only doing this. But when it came time to make changes, an arrow pointing to a section with ‘WHAT?’ or ‘add more’ did nothing to help me. Yet armed with my trust note book, I could look back and find the appropriate reference.

Now that you’ve made a chapter by chapter recount of your story it will be easy to reverse outline your story. Only think of the structural elements of the story and begin to deconstruct and then reconstruct. Don’t waste your time on surface editing. You need to focus on the fundamental changes first. Besides, there’s no point polishing your voice and cleaning up the grammar if your only going to cut the scene.

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Once you’ve tackled the big stuff like structural changes and plot holes, its time to work on through the remained of your notes. Focus on the surface editing, such as; sentences that didn’t make sense, the flow of your story and of course polish your Voice. Work in stages; a chapter at a time. This keeps you accountable for the work you’re doing, without overburdening yourself. Remember, edits take as long as they take. That’s why small goals help us to stay motivated throughout the process.

Yay! Pat yourself on the back, the hard graft is done. But before sending your work out to beta readers, check formatting, grammar, spelling and punctuation. This stage is also a great time to check for crutch words and anything repetitive, including repetitive body gestures that your characters use. In my first drafts, I tend add a lot of shoulder shrugging, and body parts. Cut it back or alter the overused words to make your writing flow.

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Now it’s time to send your work to a couple of trusted beta readers, or if your lucky like me, a critique partner. Use their feedback to edit your manuscript again. You can work in stages, one beta at a time, or with a small group. Remember, choose what feedback you use to alter your story, not all of it will apply. You’re the architect of your story, so you get to decide what advice to follow.

And there we have it, you’ve edited your novel! Tell me fellow creatives, what writing stage are you at? And are you a lover or hater of editing? Personally, I’ve grown to love this stage. I learn so much from working with others.

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Don’t forget to leave a comment and share your thoughts. You know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.

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How to Revise your Manuscript Using a Reverse Outline – Review of Jeni Chappelle’s webinar.

Hello my fellow writers and welcome! This week I’ve completed my fourth manuscript; a speculative fiction called Entangled of around 90’000 words. Finishing the first draft is a fantastic moment, but it’s also only the beginning of a novels journey to completion. I’m currently in an odd position where I have three novels all at different phases of the revision process. I must admit the task of tackling a first revision is still as daunting as it was the first time. I recently attended a webinar by editor Jeni Chappelle who has a wealth of experience, so I thought I’d share it with you.

The first part of editing may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s vital: Put the MS down and forget about it. Leave it on the hard-drive or locked in a draw and focus on something else. When the time comes, you’ll want to be as objective as possible. You’ll want to forget about the subplots and character arcs. You’ll need to switch your brain from being a creative writer, to an analytical observer. Time and distance from your WIP will help.

Jeni talk us through the three phases of revision, the first one is to look at the structural elements of your story. The plot and character arcs are the foundations of your novel. It’s fundamental to do this type of revision first; the set up if you like, to see if the novel works.

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While I’ve always started my process by reading through the whole manuscript, making notes on the things I want to change or clarify – Jeni opens up a whole list of vital question to ask during this process. Jeni gets us thinking about the internal goals and conflicts of the characters. The webinar gives the key to unlocking all of the hidden workings behind a successful story.

I found Jeni’s friendly approach not only welcoming but also easy to understand, despite the in-depth scope of the lesson. During the half an hour webinar, Jeni helps distinguish the importance of identifying the plot and pacing, and much, much more.

Jeni teaches writers how to Create a reverse outline. If you’re having heart palpitations at the thought of this, trust me, you’re not alone. A reverse outline is an overview of your novel, enabling the writer to structure their novel. Stories should follow a novel structure, their are many to choose from, but I prefer to model my stories on the three act structure.

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Once we’ve identified the gaps in our manuscript its time to start editing. Perhaps your MC needs clearer defined goals, or the pacing is too slow to start. Maybe some of the scenes need to be switched around to enable the story structure to flow.

The process will be different for everyone, the important part is trying. That’s where you’ll learn and grow as a writer. Once you’ve finished the first round of revision, you may choose to ask a critique partner to help out. They will be able to point out any areas you may have overlooked.

Send your work out to beta readers and return the favour by critiquing their work. This is the stage I’m at with my third MS Crown of Lies. It’s a valuable chance to put into practice the knowledge you’ve gleaned from revising your own work. While it can be daunting, it is undoubtedly the most valuable skill you’ll learn as a writer.

If you’re stuck and you’re searching for professional feedback, you may want to work with a developmental editor, or simply get feedback of your submission package. (This is the stage I’m at with my second novel, before I query again.) Today’s post has been influenced by one of Jeni Chappelle webinars. She is a co-founder of #RevPit over at Twitter. Check her out – subscribe to her newsletter. Not only does she have great content and she’s also a fantastic editor too.

What resources do you use when editing? Do you like to use the reverse outline method, or do you tackle the issue in a different way. I’d love to hear all about your process, please share your experiences with me.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.